Last Saturday morning, a group of about 20 folks gathered at Garfield Park during the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market for an Urban Foraging Workshop, co-sponsored by Our Kitchen Table and The Bloom Collective.
The presenter who was to lead the event had a family emergency so the workshop turned into a skill-share. People in attendance shared how they used various wild medicinal and edible plants (commonly called weeds). Here are a few of those:
- Purslane—a delicious salad green
- Dandelion – use as a salad green; brew as tea that for a good kidney tonic; use the root as a coffee substitute. The flowers are also edible.
- Sorel – a lemony tart salad green.
- Queen Anne’s lace – Deep fry the flowers; the seeds brewed as tea have traditionally been used as a contraceptive among indigenous peoples.
- Wild grape and mulberry leaves – use to wrap rice and meat mixtures, think Middle Eastern cuisine.
- Mulberries – a summer fruit that makes a great snack and a delicious jelly or jam.
- Peppermint – brew as tea to settle an upset stomach; chew a leaf instead of a breath mint.
- Plantain – the leaves can relieve insect bites and bee stings. Roll and crush the leaf, apply it to the sting, use a whole leaf as a “band-aid” to hold the crushed mixture in place.
- Ground cherries – found inside the tomatilla like flower, these are a semi-sweet treat that can be used for jams and jellies as well.
We were also fortunate to have Kristin Tindall, ecology education coordinator from Blandford Nature Center, in attendance. She had lots of good information for the group and let us know that Blandford sometimes hosts foraging workshops.
Kristin also mentioned that a foraging club is forming. The club will be able to provide an ongoing shared experience that will help members to broaden their skills for finding foods and medicinal herbs in their backyards, local parks, parkways and abandoned lots. Kristin also shares this Wild foraging handout.
A word to the wise: When foraging, make sure you are picking plants from an area that has not been chemically contaminated. For example, Tindall shared that utility companies usually spray a swath of herbicides under electricity towers.
Just like the grocery stores have helped us forget that food comes from farms, cultivation of domestic crops has helped us forget that many of the native species we see around us (and label as weeds) once were a prize source of both food and medicine. Let’s learn how to take advantage of the free foods growing all around us.